Feeling hungry – or getting to the point of “hangry” – is terrible for everyone. There ARE ways – yes, really! – to maximize fullness and avoid the pitfalls of poor-choice snacking. It does take some commitment, but it isn’t so difficult that it can’t be achieved (with minimal, if any, pain, I promise.)
I struggle with snacking too – I’ve always liked eating a lot of food, so I’ve learned some tricks to keep me on track, without the starving feeling of a “diet” (I don’t actually believe in the “D word” to begin with.) The point is to set yourself up for success, not disaster. Binges? been there.
#1. . . H2O
Water is essential for SO many reasons, and I guarantee that most of us aren’t getting as much as we need. When you feel thirsty, it’s usually too late. Incidentally, in effort to get the hydration it needs, sometimes you’re sent a “hungry signal” when in fact it’s the body and brain’s way of saying “need fluid asap!”
How to make it work: Always drink water before you eat. You WILL get a stronger feeling of fullness. In some cases, too much water at once might make you feel sick…so go easy and give your body a chance to adjust. Sip your water first and you’ll likely notice you don’t need to eat that whole, huge portion.
#2. . . SLOW DOWN!
Eating too quickly is a surefire way to A.) eat more than you need and, B.) leave you feeling overly full. Stomach aches are NEVER good! Slowing the pace can make a huge difference – you will feel that “fullness” when it’s time to stop. The body has been designed to work like a highly-tuned machine – it knows before the brain does sometimes. Trust it.
How to make it work: Take a bite and put your utensil down. Sound basic? It is. But try its because it helps. Eat a little, put your fork down, and give yourself a chance to chew and enjoy the food.
#3. . . Fruits and Veggies
Portions M A T T E R. These nature-made goodies are easily found, not expensive, and are one of the best ways to add bulk to your meals (not to yourself!), while also adding a dose of H2o goodness and nutrients. Veggies in particular are my go-to for making meals a lot BIGGER than they really are without adding a ton of calories (e.g. . .or to my waistline, which can happen when I’m not careful. Thanks, meso-endo body type!)
How to make it work: Add an extra serving of steamed vegetables as a side for your meal, or add them to it (for example, soup or pasta) to make a larger, and more filling portion. Fresh fruits are also great (and a better choice than their deliciously dried counterparts) to add to things like yogurt, cereal, or even frozen yogurt for a treat.
#4. . . Distract yourself and stay mindful
Are you *really* hungry? Or just bored? I have a habit of wanting to eat when I’m not busy (working on the computer, watching something on tv etc.) Bad news, because then I look for more food to snack on…
How to make it work: It’s okay to snack here and there but if you are not mindful of what you are doing, you’ll probably go overboard (it’s easy – portions aren’t really that big!) If you absolutely *must* snack while doing something else, portion it out and remind yourself to (#2) slow down. If you are simply eating because you are bored, find another way to distract yourself to get that “I’m not hungry but I want to eat” out of your mind.
#6. . . Pre-Portion
Having some options at the ready is always a great idea, especially when they are portioned out already. You dont’ need to buy crappy snack packs, you can make your own (hummus with veggies, popcorn in portioned bags, fruit salad etc.)
How to make it work: Have some pre-portioned items in your pantry or fridge for when you need them. Stay mindful and remember they are portioned for a reason. If you savor what you are having, you don’t need to eat three portions of it. Often we do that because it’s an oral fixation – the act of just munching – vs our body really needs the sustenance. I’m super guilty of this one.
#7. . . Don’t BUY it!
This is a go-to for me also. Sometimes I know I really want something…but if I buy it, I’m not going to be able to control the amount I have. So…I don’t buy it. It isn’t worth it to me to then be kicking myself in the butt – if I don’t have it at home, I can’t eat it. I CAN, however, buy other options.
How to make it work: Don’t get sh*t you know you can’t handle! I’m serious! You know your weaknesses. Do buy things you can have instead that you won’t beat yourself up over. You deserve to feel great ALL around.
#8. . . Get moving!
Exercise is a nice distraction technique (see #4.) It’s great for you, but it also gets your metabolism moving along as well.
How to make it work: Maybe you don’t have a gym membership, or you are having a tough time motivating…try doing a few little things during commercials when you are watching your favorite show, or in between stirs while you’re cooking dinner (e.g. pushups, jumping jacks, setups etc.) Baby steps are OKAY. In fact, they are MORE than okay. It might help get your mind off the need to munch, and give your furnace a boost while you’re at it.
#9. . . Chopsticks
Yep. Chopsticks are not as easy to eat with and they force you to follow rule #2 whether you want to or not. Sneaky, yes. Genius, also yes.
How to make it work: Pick up a pair and start pinching! If you have trouble, there are modified ones that are joint at the top (not as good, but still slower than a fork or spoon.)
#10. . . (Worse comes to worse, and ps, I’m NOT a dentist!) Have some peppermint, or try a piece of gum
I am NOT recommending chewing gum as much as I do (it is sugar-free, but I’m sure it’s not the best habit.) There are plenty of healthy ways to avoid overeating but sometimes a quick piece of gum can keep me from eating something I don’t really want or need. A dose of peppermint tea, or a mint can also help. Again, not trying to suggest this is should be a default – I’m slapping my own hands given that I love my Bubblemint. But…if all else fails, it can help in a pinch.
How to make it work: Have some peppermint tea, suck on a mint, or even have a piece of sugar-free gum. As a last resort, this can actually help. Some folks recommend smelling fragrant oils – you can try that too, though the physical act of chewing, or having the taste on your tongue, might have a stronger result.
Once again, not a doc, and not a dietician..but these are a few tricks that might help when the munchies hit. As someone who LOVES volume (e.g. LOTS of food) I can say honestly that these tricks CAN work.